Can you guess where in the world this destination is from the clues below?
This is a country where St Patrick’s Day is a National Holiday…but it’s not Ireland. That’s because the Irish settled here and perhaps it reminded them of their lush, green homeland and that the geography of this country bears a striking resemblance to coastal Ireland (if coastal Ireland had black sand beaches).
But the phenomenon that really put this area on the map was a massive, devastating volcanic eruption that occurred here recently. A complete city instantly buried under volcanic ash and hardened lava. Abandoned houses and the atmosphere of chaos and fear still reigns in this area today. It’s literally a modern-day Pompeii. Lava completely devastated this former tourist town, destroying everything in its way, including the airport, homes, and restaurants. Life has literally stopped here. Since people fled the eruption, the former capital has remained completely untouched. The population was evacuated in a hurry, that’s why people left their belongings, dishes, appliances and even food in refrigerators. In the hills overlooking the former capital, luxurious villas are still located – in former times it was the most expensive real estate here. Surprisingly, looters did not touch the city.
Today, visitors are strictly prohibited from visiting this area on foot, largely due to the threat of another volcanic eruption. But helicopter tours are a popular way of observing this city which was literally frozen in time. The northern part of this country has become the new capital city, with tourism and a population of approximately 5,000 people (less than half the population before the eruption.)
Where in the World is This Destination?
Montserrat, British West Indies
The island of Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory (BOT) that lies 30 miles southwest of Antigua, 300 miles southeast of Puerto Rico, and northwest of Suriname and French Guiana (France).
Montserrat is nicknamed the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of many of its inhabitants. There are only three places in the world where St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday: Ireland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and this tiny British island of Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles. But only on Montserrat do the celebrations last all week and include displays of African dance and a freedom run.
The eruption of the long-dormant Soufrière Hills volcano is what put the island of Montserrat on the map. In July 1995, the volcano became active and eruptions destroyed Montserrat’s Georgian era capital city of Plymouth. Nineteen people were killed when three square miles of forests, agricultural land, and villages were flattened by debris and lava flow.
Nearly half of Montserrat’s population has emigrated since that first eruption; of those who remain, many thousands had to abandon their homes and relocate farther north. Today, two-thirds of the island – mostly lush, fertile land – has been declared an Exclusion Zone because it lies in the likely path of future flows. Stern notices guard the edges of the zone, promising that anyone entering without authorization will be prosecuted.
Celebrity Cruises visits the nearby islands of Antigua and Guadeloupe on some of its Caribbean cruises, where guests can take helicopter excursions over the Exclusion Zone of Montserrat.